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Circus Bodies: Cultural Identity in Aerial Performance is an extraordinary survey of 140 years of high-wire acrobatics. Trapeze acts transformed performance after 1859 with muscular male and female performers presenting artistically graceful but athletically strenuous flying action. In this pioneering study, Peta Tait investigates socially changing ideas of muscular action in relation to our understanding of gender and sexuality. How do spectators see and enjoy aerial action? What cultural identities are presented by bodies in fast, physical aerial movement?
This is an untold cultural history of bodies, explored in a range of films, such as Trapeze (1956) and Wings of Desire (1987), and live performances including:
· the first trapeze performers, Léotard and the Hanlon Brothers;
· female celebrities, Azella, Sanyeah, black French aerialist LaLa, the infamous Leona Dare, and the female human cannonballs;
· twentieth century gender benders, Barbette and Luisita Leers;
· the extraordinary, record-breaking, high flying Codonas, Concellos, Gaonas, Vazquez and Pages troupes;
· imaginative aerial acts in Cirque du Soleil and Circus Oz productions.
Introduction: Aerial Bodies Chapter 1: Graceful Manliness, Unfeminine Maidens and Erotic Gods Chapter 2: Unnatural Acts, Female Strongmen Chapter 3: Cross-Dressing and Female Muscular Drag Chapter 4: Gender Competition, Camp Spectacles and Impossible Machismo Chapter 5: Androgyny to Queer Violence: Cirque du Soleil, Archaos and Circus Oz Chapter 6: Ecstasy and Visceral Flesh in Motion Glossary References Index
Peta Tait is Professor of Theatre and Drama at La Trobe University, Australia. She is author of Performing Emotions: Gender, Bodies, Spaces in Chekhov's Drama and Stanislavski's theatre (2002) as well as books on gender identity in Australian theatre, and editor of Body Show/s (2000).